The workings of a household with many children can be mysterious. As a father I am aware that there is a world of which I am not a full member—a world where I am an outlawed creature, but tolerated on the edges. As a caring father, one who really enjoys spending time with children doing the things they like to do, this baffles me a little. My children love me. They seek out my company often each day. And yet there is a place “Dad” cannot come. The world is for children and I am an adult. My children did not make up the rules for this world; they and I are just living under a law of reality.
I had been working in my office all day, neglecting even to come in for lunch. Around three o’clock, when I realized I was a little hungry, I left my project on my desk and came into the house for some food and a break. In my home, when everyone is home, there are ten people—Mom and Dad and eight children. My home is small and the presence of others is easily detected. On this day as I entered the back door I detected nothing but silence, something that is very unusual. One son is on a mission in Canada. Two other sons, although living at home, were at work. That accounted for three children. As I walked through the kitchen into the sitting room I found my three-year-old, Story, sprawled out in nothing but his diaper asleep on the couch. So there was the fourth. I recalled my wife telling me she was going to step out on an errand. She sometimes takes Clory, my twelve-year-old, with her. That accounted for my wife and a fifth child. So where were the other three?
Then I heard little voices. I followed their soft melody to the back bedroom. There I found the other three all sitting on the top bunk. Lory, ten, was lying at one end looking up at the ceiling as she talked. Jory, seven, was at the other end sitting up and pressing the bottom of his bare feet against Lory’s feet and giggling about something. Glory was sitting in the middle, to the side of the other’s legs, against the railing.
I strode into the room and rested my head on my hands on the edge of the top bunk. The children were aware of me, but they were in that world I could not enter and said nothing to me. After a minute of listening to their comments and laughter that mean nothing now I ventured some words to see if they would recognize and communicate with me.
“Did you guys have lunch yet?”
Lory glanced at me and nodded. “Peanut butter jelly sandwiches,” she said. She immediately looked back at the ceiling, kicked Jory’s feet and laughed at some continuing joke I was not privy to.
I felt a little lonely standing there in the presence of three of my children. But then I noticed Glory, 5. She was looking at me from across the bed with those big, brown eyes. I felt like I, an outsider, was in a jungle and some creature of the jungle had taken notice of me. Glory presently is the most mysterious of all my children–at least to me. She needs me as her father, but only at her convenience. Her world is quite independent. I see her and hear her during the day, but she calls on me only when it is in her interest to do so. For instance, I will be watching a movie in the evening. I will make myself comfortable on the love seat with various family members in various seats and positions throughout the room. I will suddenly become aware that my once empty lap is now occupied by Glory. She will have made herself quite comfortable as if I am a lounger. I didn’t notice when she arrived in my lap. Suddenly Glory was just there because it suited her. After giving the movie my attention for awhile I will look down to find my lap empty again and Glory nowhere to be seen. I didn’t notice her leave. Suddenly Glory is just gone.
On this day Glory’s eyes lock on me. She says nothing and I raise my eyebrows in wonder. Then Glory, who is sitting Indian style, leans slowly across the bed and presses her lips against my cheek. Next she presses her cheek against my lips. Then she withdraws back across the bed and back into her world. I try to follow her, but run up against the barrier no adult can cross. I realize Glory has given me a gift from her world. Knowing I have been favored, but can expect no more, I withdraw in search of a peanut butter jelly sandwich.